He’s back!!! The humorist that twists words and imagery in such a whimsical way that you comprehend a language foreign to you. He has now developed a venue for his gift – Voices in Flight. Garden Spices welcomes you back, Faeez Van Doorsen– Victorine
Kullid kids who grew up in Jo’burg in the eighties will remember the value of a Parker pen set. Very few parents in Riverlea could afford one for their kids, but for those lucky enough to receive a pen of this stature, there was no concealing the joy nor the naked rebuke of life before Parker pen ownership.
The social clout was enormous. The weight suddenly accrued by recipients of a Parker pen was enough to be thrown around from Eldos to Elsies and with a freedom thoroughly belying their status as mense with the skinniest of social standings. Often, it had nothing to do with the craftsmanship that went into designing a pen as beautiful as a Parker. Most of it was really about the power of owning one.
I was around ten years old when a girl named Farieda who lived in a block of flats around the corner from my grandfather and roughly a year or so my senior was blessed with a Parker. I only interacted with her when I’d occasionally join in with other kids from the neighbourhood playing kullid street games like rounders, china rope or kieriebekkie in a nearby park.
While out one afternoon out buying tjoepas from a local house-shop after school, I happened upon Farieda announcing to the entire kullid doenya that she’d been gifted a Parker pen for having pwasa’d the entire month of Ramadaan without missing single day and, simultaneously, though not in so many words, declaring that she was the queen of Riverlea and that every last resident of the township were now her peasant skapies.
Largely due to my earnest moralism, Farieda and I never moved beyond very casual acquaintanceship into friendship. While charming in her ponytailed chatterbox sweetness, Farieda was also the greatest liar since Jan Van Riebeek.
To be sure, all the kids who’d gathered around her at the gate of that tjoepa shop to witness the show-stopping reveal of a silver, stainless steel Parker pen from the right side pocket of her school tunic, flashing it about like it was lightning she’d chased, captured and solidified, and she was destined to blaze the evidence of her feat across the Riverlea sky, were knocked silly by the theatre of it all. We knew better, however, than to believe her account of seeing the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) in her dreams the night before she got her pen as a gift from a rich uncle from Bushkoppies. Though some knew her uncle, far more familiar to us were her tales of the Prophet (SAW) appearing to her the day before any life-changing event. According to Farieda, she saw The Prophet’s (SAW) face form in the clouds the day before she got a Barbie doll for her birthday. According to science, though, not so much. The said day was a horrid one and fell between two equally horrid others pummeled by heavy rains from midnight to midnight across everybody’s Riverlea, except Farieda’s.
As a friend had told me about the prophesized arrival of Barbie in Farieda’s life, I theorized that her tales of apparition and divination were her way of spreading the word of Islam and bringing others into its fold. Fatefully, my theory would later be proven correct. At the same time, I thought if it was Farieda’s intention to convert her non-Muslim friends to Islam, she needed a new strategy. Because no kullid child, Christian or non-Muslim in any way, was suddenly going to go to mosque five times a day to get what Farieda really got – a knock-off, Made-in-Taiwan Barbie called Kandi bought from the Oriental Plaza with less than four hairs on her head and packaged with a comb four times the size of her entire body. Particularly since, as many of my kullid Christian mense who grew up in eighties Jo’burg will recall, they could go to church to honour God and pray for a Barbie just once every Sunday and end up with the same damn result.
God was and will always be good, but non-madjat Barbie dolls were not in His plan for at least 80 percent of us living in Riverlea.
Also, never mind one of the very first things you’re taught when you set foot in a madressah classroom is that the only being who knows what The Prophet (SAW) looked like is God. Farieda, we all knew, was not that special. Not more special than the rest of us, anyway. That is, until she got her first Parker pen and Noenie, a boy with curly, ear-long dreadlocks and chestnut eyes, widened with wonder at what Farieda called a ‘Muslim Miracle’, had joined Farieda’s enchanted audience and was instantly beguiled by her multiple variations of a song whose only lyrics were, ‘Look what I got! Look what I got!’
Farieda and Noenie moved in different circles. I was in neither of them, so I knew as little about Noenie as I did Farieda. All I really knew was that he was half-Muslim – a socio-cultural phenomenon unique to kullid South Africans loosely defined as:
‘Even if just your your niggie se pa se ompie se ouma groetjie se auntie Linky wat ‘n Slamse slaaf gewees’it is in your ancestry then you’re half-Muslim and, when a time came for it to matter, no one could tell you nutting, my bra!’
The same was true for Muslims with what we called ‘Christian blood’. The only real time it ever came up was when some Christian kids wanted the day off from school to celebrate Labarang (Eid) or some Muslim kids had boyfriends or girlfriends who were Christian. The reasoning would run something like:
‘It’s okay because my auntie Dora is a Christian and she is a Sunday school teacher in the church. And that makes me half-Christian, kanala!’
Meanwhile, auntie Dora also owned a side business selling Mandrax.
Noenie, suddenly became Nuroedeen having converted to what I can only describe as a ‘full-Muslim’ and was seen with Farieda just two weeks after the unveiling of her Parker pen, galloping arm-in-arm with her to madressah. In a bright red kuffiah (fez) replete with a gold tossel and alles wat Slams is, Nuroedeen was Farieda’s Muslim disciple. ‘Muslim Miracle No. 2!’ Farieda would probably have claimed, but it was only ever, to anyone across the length and breadth of Riverlea universe, the magic of the Parker pen really at work.
A kind of magic which persisted between Farieda and Nuroedeen even when things went terribly sour between them. The way the story goes is that Farieda tried everything, even publicly lambasting Nuroedeen, who had transformed back into Noenie newly blessed with her Parker, with the scariest of Muslim kullid solicitations of God’s name, ‘Kassam! You gonna see! Allah is going punish you stone dead!’
She had no choice but to raid her mother’s samoosa stock and use a dozen of them as bartering collateral. Her mom was a culinary genius. The promise of a dozen mince samoosas Farieda had dangled before Noenie encouraging him to do the right thing her was among the mightiest things you could dangle before anyone in Riverlea.
And, sure enough, the lure of Farieda’s mother’s most genius of all her outrageously ingenious kitchen creations was enough to bring Noenie back to Farieda’s door one Friday afternoon.
‘Dumb as a mullet.’
That’s how a madressah teacher of mine would often describe behavior which led to one’s own demise. Like inviting someone who just stole the most prized of your possessions back to your home. Of course they’re just going to do you in all over again.
This is exactly what happened.
Nuroedeen showed up on Farieda’s stoep with her Parker, but before they made the exchange, he grabbed the fried samoosas from her hands and ran for both his half-Muslim and half-Christian lives.
Could what followed have passed as Farieda’s Muslim Miracle No. 3? Perhaps. She was certainly nobody’s mullet. To me, the climax of Farieda and Noenie story was the sketching of an artful witchery singular to writing instruments of any kind. Both the joy they’re capable of bringing and the refusal to have it taken from you on deftly crafted display.
Yes, Farieda did get her pen back. Word on the street was that later that evening Nuroedeen’s mother had trekked on foot from one end of Riverlea to the other with Noenie just to ensure the safe return of Farieda’s pen – a decision she made after biting into one of the treats her son had claimed to have bought and discovering the taste of samoosas lovingly filled by Farieda with cigarette stompies.
-Faeez Van Doorsen
‘Since graduating with an Honors Degree in Dramatic Art for the University of the Witwatersrand, Faeez Van Doorsen has worked as a television writer and content producer for some of South Africa’s leading production houses. He is currently playing his trade as a freelance copywriter and working on a collection of short stories with a focus on the lives of LGBTIQ people of colour across the country.’